BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Our Board is made up of industry professionals who have come together with a combined interest in creating a useful standards body for the PTI. These people all bring different skills and qualifications with them. They have all been tested under a variety of national and international examining bodies and thus believe in the value of standards of operation in defining a profession and professional organization.

All Board members work for a variety of PTI companies and must read, sign and abide by the PTGA Conflict of Interest protocol (available for any member to see).

GRAHAM CHARLES

INAUGURAL PRESIDENT

Graham is uniquely qualified for this role and merger of polar tourism and training and assessment. Graham has been assessing outdoor skills and teaching people how-to-teach for over 35 years.

He has been part of New Zealand’s professional outdoor training and assessment scheme from its first day of inception in 1987 to now being required by NZ law to teach outdoor skills. He has been working/playing/expeditioning in the polar regions for 19 years.

He has a worked in training and assessment programs around the world as a developer, assessor and licensed trainer. Currently he works free-lance as an Expedition Leader in the polar regions, runs the day to day operations of the PTGA and with the Leadership School at Wharton Business School and Tai Poutini Polytechnic developing their ‘expedition model’ of leadership training.

Polar Tourism Guides Association
  • Senior Assessor and SPTGuide
    • New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association
      • Kayaking Stage II Instructor and Assessor
      • Rock climbing Stage II Instructor
      • Mountaineering Stage II Instructor
      Skills Active New Zealand
      • Work Place Assessor
      New Zealand Ski Patrol Association
      • Ski Patrol Ski Test
      Emergency Care - Pre Hospital Emergency Care revalidated per requirements since 1987 Whitewater New Zealand
      • Stage II Instructor and Assessor
      • River Rescue Instructor
      New Zealand Avalanche Institute
      • Stage II Safety Management
      • OSH Hand Charging and Explosives Certificate
      Experienced Based Training and Development Awards
      • DisC Personality Profile Accredited Trainer
      • New Zealand Association for Psychological Type - Qualifying program (Myers Briggs Personality Indicator)
      • Situational Leadership II Accredited Trainer
      • Building High Performing Teams Accredited
      • Raving Fans Customer Service
      • Project Adventure Safety Skills and Standards Workshop
      Search and Rescue
      • Mt Cook Rescue Team Training 1994
      • Team Leader Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation 1992 -1997
      • Search Co-ordinator RARO 1995-97
      • Joint Antarctic Search And Rescue Team member Scott Base

MARIANO CURIEL

VICE PRESIDENT

Since 2003 Mariano has completed more than 200 polar tourism trips in the Arctic and Antarctic. 75 as Expedition Leader. He is one of the most experienced in the business.

He has been instrumental in the design, development and implementation of operations for the Antarctica XXI Fly & Cruise program.

Part of his work with Antarctica XXI is to train expedition guides and mentor new expedition leaders and he recognizes the time is ripe for developing industry standards of operation and a profession we can be proud of.

Mariano sits on two IAATO Committees, was the first Argentine to cross Greenland on skis and with his wife Loli has just embarked on the biggest expedition of their lives with their newborn son.

  • SPTGuide
  • Certified Coastal Master (Sail/Motor up to 20 meter vessels)
  • Certified Rescue Diver (PADI)
  • Certified Advance Wilderness First Responder
  • STCW + Crowd Management and PBIP by IMO (Arg Coastguard)
  • Certified Proficiency in Fast Rescue Boats IMO
  • Several mountaineering courses, winter transit, glacial, crevasse rescue, high mountain

DR PHIL WICKENS

Phil studied biology at Imperial College in London, England. After completing his PhD in plant pathology, he worked for two winters and three summers as a field guide for the British Antarctic Survey, combining his passion for natural science with that of mountain exploration and photography.

As a keen climber and ski mountaineer, he has led numerous climbing and skiing expeditions to Antarctica, Tibet, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Peru, East Greenland, the Caucasus and Canada, and was recently Vice President of the Alpine Club.

He had led numerous highly successful private mountaineering and ski mountaineering expeditions to Antarctica, having made the first ascents of over 30 thirty unclimbed Antarctic mountains. This is his 19th year operating in the polar regions.

  • SPTGuide
  • PhD – Biology from Imperial College
  • UIAA (international Union of Alpine Associations)

HEATHER THORKELSON

TREASURER

Heather is a dual entrepreneur running a business strategy company and a niche polar expedition company (Twin Tracks) in the Arctic. Through her business strategy company, she has been helping entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses through one-to-one work and group programs since 2011. She has worked as a polar expedition guide in both the Antarctic and the Arctic on vessels ranging from 12 – 200 guests in size. The majority of her work on expedition ships has been in customer service/passenger experience with Polar Latitudes since 2013. Heather is very passionate about helping train the next generation of polar guides to be 360 degree guides meaning they are strong in all areas of professional experience delivery, not just technical guiding skills.

She is excited about bringing her entrepreneurial and business coaching skills to this new formative stage of the PTGA.

  • PTGuide
  • STCW 95 Basic Training
  • Standard/Emergency First Aid - Level C - CPR/AED
  • RYA Powerboat Level 2
  • Firearms License
  • PADI
  • Sea Kayak Certification
  • Co-active Coaching certification, CTI

ALEX COWAN

Alex has a PhD in earth sciences from the University of Cambridge. He has worked in polar tourism in the Arctic and Antarctic as an Expedition Leader and guide since 2011 for a variety of companies on a range of vessel sizes from 12 to 134 passengers. Prior to this career he worked as a professional yacht-master delivering vessels and training people to the RYA ‘Yachtmaster Offshore’ level. In 2014 he took part in the South Georgia Guideline Review of extended walks, acting as the IAATO representative. This gave him good insight into the GSGSSI view of tourism and need for industry standards for operating in this environment.

In 2018 he co-founded the Polar Citizen Science Collective, an organisation devoted to coordinating use of polar tour vessels for data collection and scientific research.

He is enthusiastic about training and skill development and this opportunity to merge his experience as a trainer and as a polar guide with what the PTGA has to offer. Alex is a passionate climber and skier and when not on ships can usually be found with skis or sticky rubber on his feet, and is currently working through the UK Mountain Training scheme.

  • PhD Earth Sciences
  • RYA Instructor

BRANDON HARVEY

Over the past 20 years, Brandon has demonstrated his proficiency in developing the impeccable safety-standards, exceptional guest experiences, superior leadership training programs and engaging educational programming that are the cornerstones of his career.

Brandon began his career as a marine naturalist and captain of wildlife viewing tours in western Canada and has since spent the majority of his career exploring the remote polar regions. Brandon has participated on countless expeditions to the Southern Ocean, including the wildlife-rich and exceptionally scenic Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Brandon has also explored vast areas of the Arctic with expeditions to Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula and Wrangel Island, Canadian High Arctic (including multiple Northwest Passage transits), East and West Greenland, Northern Norway and Svalbard. Staying true to his roots Brandon has multiple seasons exploring the wild coasts of British Columbia and southeast Alaska, with a focus on the Great Bear Rainforest and the Salish Sea.

The past decade has found Brandon directing operations for tourism operators, most recently as Operations Manager for award‐winning ecotourism company Maple Leaf Adventures, Director of Expedition Operations for Polar Latitudes and is currently Director of Expedition Operations & Program Development for EYOS Expeditions. Brandon also sits on the Board of Directors for the Polar Citizen Science Collective, as well as a company representative on several committees of IAATO/AECO. Brandon’s career has only served his passion for photography and videography, with multiple credits to his name. In addition, Brandon’s field expertise as a marine ecologist and environmental scientist is supported by a Master of Science in Environmental Practice.

  • Senior Polar Tourism Guide
    • Wilderness First Aid (50hr)
    • WCB Occupational First Aid Level 3
    • STCW Basic Safety Training - Security Awareness, Crowd Management, Marine First Aid
      • Transport Canada
      • Master Limited Captain 60 tonne (Passenger)
      • Small Vessel Machinery Operator (Restricted Engineer)
      • Small Vessel Operator Proficiency (SVOP)
      • Marine Medical
      • Other
      • Digital Radio Operators Cert. (ROC MC)
      • PADI Advanced Diver
      • Marine Emergency Duties Level A1/A2
      • SKGABC Assistant Overnight Sea Kayak Guide
      • Commercial Bear Viewing Guide – Assistant Guide
      • Canadian PAL Firearms Licence

KIT VAN WAGNER

Inspired by her experiences growing up in Japan, Norway and England, Kit has been steadily working her way around the globe, sharing her infatuation with wild places, wildlife, and remote cultures as she goes. She holds a Master’s degree in Marine Science Education and has directed several government-funded marine conservation initiatives, most notably with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Kit holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-Ton Captains License, Dive Instructor Certification, and has a varied career history also working as a sailing instructor, tall ship officer, and backcountry kayak guide. She began working internationally on expedition ships in 1999 and joined Silversea Expeditions full-time in 2014. She has enjoyed working for Silversea since that time as a Lecturer, Expedition Leader and currently in the role of Director of Expedition Training and Staff Development.

When not at sea, Kit is dedicated to developing training and professional development opportunities for Silversea’s expedition staff members including the introduction of the innovative ‘Silversea Expeditions Training Academy.’ She also stays busy scouting new destinations and providing essential support in various facets of expedition operations including permitting and program development. She is excited about the direction the PTGA is heading, the support gained and what she can offer the broader industry.